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The Matrix

review by Ren C.


Rated R

Studio: Warner Brothers

Running Time: 136 minutes

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne

Written and Directed by: The Wachowski Brothers

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Commentary, Documentaries, Featurettes, DVD-ROM

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, English Subtitles

"Entertainment Weekly" did a story late last year stating that 1999 will forever be known as the year that changed movies, and this movie played a large part, without any question. This movie quite frankly does a lot to challenge our notions of reality. Could we be living in a fantasy world and not even realize it? That is the question posed to computer programmer Thomas Anderson (Reeves), who in one part of his life is relatively benign, but in his other life he is the computer hacker Neo. The authorities aren't particularly fond of the fact that he has committed every computer crime that a law exists for, and take him in. However, Neo quickly realizes that he has an unseen ally. He eventually escapes from the authorities with the help of this ally and goes to see whom his benefactor is.

This benefactor turns out to be a man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who frankly tells Neo that his entire reality is a lie. He gives Neo two options, take the blue pill and remain in his "never-never land" like world, or take the red pill and see what reality is really like. Neo chooses to take the pill and ventures into a world where machines have taken over, and humanity is reduced to a small rebel force fighting to reclaim their freedom.

This movie is like nothing that I have ever seen before. Every aspect of it is revolutionary, from the plot, to the effects, to the way the movie is done. This is one of the most well executed movies of 1999, if not of the '90s, and certainly will change the way that you think about science-fiction movies, and movies in general.

Top-notch in every aspect. There is no sign of grain at all, as there really shouldn't be for such a recent movie. The majority of the movie is very dark, and this is portrayed very well, with the colors being very deep and rich.

This is definitely a movie that you will want as a demo disc, and it doesn't disappoint here either. Both the effects and the score are loaded with bass, and will use your system to its greatest potential. Everything comes through very clearly, with the effects sounding great, but not overwhelming the dialogue.

The features on this disc compliment the movie very well, providing a great deal of information about how the movie was made. First, there is a commentary with Carrie-Anne Moss, Editor Zach Staenberg and Special Effects Supervisor John Gaeta. They provide a lot of information about the making of the movie, but I really would have liked to see Keanu Reeves and/or the Wachowski Brothers. This is for the pure and simple fact that they would have contributed more about the overall making of the movie, as opposed to just the effects aspect of the movie. Also included is a music-only track with commentary by composer Don Davis. I always enjoy these tracks, and this one is no exception with the quality music that was used in the film.

Next up are several making-of documentaries. The first is an HBO produced documentary that is fairly equally balanced between promotion and information, but if anything does lean slightly toward the promotional side. That's not a big deal, because the other documentaries that are included are nothing but informative. The first is "What is Bullet-Time?" and goes into extensive detail as to how the groundbreaking bullet-time effects were created. The other is "What is the Concept?" and is essentially an extended featurette which, rather than having the cast and crew talk about what happened, actually shows it through storyboards, behind the scenes footage, etc.

The other documentaries are accessed through a way that I'm not really crazy about. The "Follow the White Rabbit" feature allows the viewer to click on a white rabbit icon that will show up on the screen at various points throughout the feature, and watch a brief (2-3 minute) clip of how the scene was created. I favor just including the featurettes on a separate menu, and allowing the viewer to access them from there, but that's just a nit-pick on my part. The documentaries are very informative, and definitely made me feel like I knew more about the movie after watching them.

My other slight disappointment came from the realization that there is no trailer included on the DVD. Well, that's not exactly true. The trailer is included in the DVD-ROM portion of the disc, along with some other features, but is not included on the main portion of the disc. While text features, and things like that can be restricted to DVD-ROM, I tend to think that a trailer is generally a prerequisite for inclusion on the DVD. Again, another small nit-pick on my part.

This, while not necessarily being the best movie of 1999, is certainly one of the most influential, and definitely one that everyone should have on hand. It is a great movie, and a fantastic demo disc. The sound and video are superb, and the features are abundant and informative. High recommendation.

(4/5, NOT included in final score)




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